Play One Note

Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

Posts tagged with ‘Psychedelic music’

Circulatory System – “Forever”

May 26, 2012

Here’s the final song off of the best album to come out of that whole Elephant 6 thing.  “Forever,” off of Circulatory System’s self-titled, is as useful a summation as there can be for an album as sprawling and messy and brilliant as Circulatory System absolutely is, encapsulating that record’s twin themes of innocent exuberance and the inexorable passing of time in 86 dissipated seconds.

And what a perfect way to cap it off: After nearly an hour of psychedelic highs and maximalist excess, we’re left with a stoned campfire singalong dirge, wasted friends accompanying a single strummed guitar, chanting the song’s only lyric: “We will live forever and you know it’s true,” until everything fades away to black.  Perfect (click below):

Circulatory System – Forever

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The Chaw – EP

September 16, 2011

the chaw epA quick hit for the the Chaw, a Concord, CA-based psych band responsible for a delicious little morsel that came my way earlier this week.  Their new EP is dark and you know what I’m gonna be frank here it’s honestly some pretty bonerrific music, plenty well-suited to trysting and heavy make-outs.  It’s true.  What’s more, listening to the Chaw has made me re-realize how much damn fun that uniquely sexy dark strain of late-aughts psychedelia is,* and how I need to listen to approximately 900% more of it stat.  This stuff is made for charged hip-shaking and is practically begging to be paired with a really badass party populated by people cooler than me.

So: The music is fun.  Highlights include “The Road,” which is deliberate and menacing and nocturnal and is bound to get someone pregnant one of these days, and “Horizon,” a magesterial, surf-tinged ballad characterized by all sorts of tasty crescendo and catharsis.  The EP sounds absolutely great, too.  Everything is appropriate huge and hazy and smudged.  Guitars brightly chime and blearily soar, leaving brilliantly arcing psychedelic chemtrails in their wake.  The vocals have an affected, brash confidence about them, situated in that commanding, sexualized space occupied by Elvis, Nick Cave, and Chris Isaak.  It’s well-suited to this kind of dissipated, sultry psych.

In the spirit of forthrightness begun by my use of the adjective “bonerrific,” I’m gonna say that the Chaw sounds pretty cocky on this EP, and I’m usually—usually—more the introspective type.  But you know what?  They have every right to sound that way.  Because that cockiness, that swagger, makes this EP a goddamn blast.  I can imagine it kicking all kinds of ass live.  (Yo, Black Angels, put these fools in Austin Psych Fest pronto!)  Here’s the Chaw’s Bandcamp and website.  Get some.  No, really, get some.


*I’m talking about the Black Angels, Black Mountain, the Warlocks, Sleepy Sun, et al.

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Zelienople – His/Hers (Test)

March 30, 2011

Hey y’all.  I’m gonna try to see how this whole Grooveshark embedded playlist thing works/looks.  So here’s the deal.  If this turns out okay, you get a playlist of the phenomenal Zelienople album His/Hers.  If it doesn’t, well, nothing will happen.  Ready?  WOO!

Aaaaaaand that looks good to me! Well, I shan’t really write anything involved about this, but I’ll say that Zelienople is one of my latest obsessions, and His/Hers is one of their strongest albums. It’s got that Scum-era Bark Psychosis underwater contemplative chaos thing going on, which is a major plus in my book. But why should I prattle on about it? You can listen to it right here! Is music criticism dead? Was the preceding question so 2007? Yes and yes. Enjoy.

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Loop – Heaven’s End

February 27, 2011

loop heaven's endBefore the Black Angels, there was Loop, and Heaven’s End was their Passover—a fuzzed-out, bump-and-grind swaggerfest of razor-wire guitars, drug-fueled paranoia, and addled sexual menace.

Loop got its start in London in 1986, where leader Robert Hampson allegedly learned four chords on a guitar and promptly began ripping off fellow travelers Spacemen 3.*  At least, that’s the prevailing idea.  And admittedly, Loop at times—okay, most of the time—does sound an awful lot like those late, great(er) purveyors of psychedelic sneer.  But Loop does Spacemen 3’s aggressive, addled hypnosis so damn well it’s hard for me to hold it against them.†

Take “Soundhead,” for example, which starts off the album with a lean, muscular rhythm section pounding out a deliciously repetitive riff, anchoring waves of hissy, trebly, wah’d-out guitars.  “Soundhead” is, without qualification, an excellent song, all raw, druggy menace and sneering swagger, a nearly unrivaled opening salvo for any appropriately mean-spirited, drug-addled record.  Derivative, perhaps, but rock criticism’s age-old emphasis on originality loses much of its relevance when you’re restraining an overwhelming urge to do an embarrassingly nerdy fist-pump dance at your computer desk.  Like, ahem, this guy, right now.  I think it’s probably time to turn Heaven’s End down a little bit, here…

I digress.  “Soundhead” isn’t the only highlight on Heaven’s End.  Many of Loop’s engrossingly circular riffs are bass-driven, with layers of noisy guitar wailing added for that particular mind-melting aggro-texture.  It’s a winning recipe, one that Loop exploits to particularly excellent effect on “Straight to Your Heart”:

Yum.  Worshippers at the Black Angels’ feet (and I include myself among that rapt throng) can be forgiven for assuming “Straight to Your Heart” is a lost, Directions to See a Ghost-era cut from Austin’s finest.

And not everything sounds entirely Boom-and-Pierce-derived.  Loop seemed to be at once more experimental (such as on the title track, with its squalls of guitar and reversed cymbal smashing) and more song-oriented (as on “Head On,” which, if it wasn’t smothered in acid-drenched guitars, would sound positively poppy).  On Heaven’s End, Loop was already straying a bit from the template they lifted off of Spacemen 3, a trend they’d continue (hesitatingly) throughout their career.

Loop went on to record two more albums, one of which (1988’s Fade Out) I haven’t heard, and one of which (1990’s A Gilded Eternity) is fucking spectacular, before disbanding in 1991.  Hampson continued his Sonic Boom-aping by starting the experimental group Main, which ripped the buzzsaw distorted guitars out of Loop’s song structures and suspended them in murky, cavernous, cacophonous, dark ambient soundscapes.  Main was good, but not great (certainly no Experimental Audio Research, the drone project Boom dabbled in after Spacemen 3’s demise), and Heaven’s End remains one of the better “These guys should be paying royalties” albums out there.  It’s not original, but it sure does kick ass.

*Amusingly, Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 has, on-record and with fangs bared, alleged Hampson of doing this very thing.  The quote was something like this: “Yeah, they really ripped us off!”  Who knew songwriters in the 80s psychedelic underground beefed so hard?

†There’s a bit of George Brigman’s Jungle Rot in the band’s swagger as well, but really, the two referents are the contemporary one (Spacemen 3) and the current one (the Black Angels).  Not bad bands to be sonically joined at the hip to, in my humble opinion.

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December 31, 2010


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David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name

October 29, 2010

david crosby if i could only remember my nameIt’s a chill Friday.  I’m relaxing, trying out my new headphones, sitting in a ridiculously comfy ergonomic chair.  Sipping on tea.  Basically feeling transcendentally mellow.

It’s chill outside, as well.  I mean, chill for central Texas.  I biked home from work in 55-degree weather.  Yes, folks, there’s a nip in the air, and it’s times like these when we turn inward ever so slightly, finding enjoyment in our own quiet thoughts and maybe, just maybe, if we’re lucky, those of one we love.  Let’s face it, peeps: ‘Tis the season to get mellow and sexual.

Maybe I’m talking out of my ass.  I probably am.  And I’m okay with that.  The point I want to make, in typically elliptical and roundabout fashion, is that I’m listening to David Crosby‘s debut album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, and it fits these chill times like a warm, easily distractible glove.  This is easily the best thing David Crosby ever put out, and the best Crosby, Stills & Nash solo album by far.  It’s lightly druggy, abstract, introspective, and exquisitely calm and languid—perfect sweater weather music, perfect post-sex come-down music.

I’d give this album more words than this but I’d rather just let this particular album speak for itself.  Put it on and chill out.

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Spacemen 3

June 26, 2010

Of all the totemic psych bands that I unreservedly love, perhaps nobody strikes closer to the genre’s elemental core than Spacemen 3.  It’s funny, then, that, for a band that so embodies psychedelia’s drug-addled core really operates on its traditional fringes.  To elaborate: Jason Pierce and Sonic Boom eschewed the typical psychedelic path—maximalism, studio trickery, and an emphasis on “trippy” drugs like LSD & mushrooms—but nevertheless arrived at an arguably purer psych sound than most of the many other bands on the road-more-travelled.

That was a mouthful!  Hope that made sense.  One aesthetic Spacemen 3 makes a convincing case for punk-as-psych, of taking single-minded minimalism and a bald-faced fuck-you attitude and rendering it transcendently substance-worshipping.  Hawkwind’s extended passages of interstellar, intramind travel seem fundamentally at odds with the three-chord, middle-finger blasts of the Sex Pistols until you hear “Revolution,” a typically hypnotic, repetitive, precision-blast of distorted snarl:

(Yes, yes, they look pretty damn corny with those bowl haircuts, but c’mon it’s 1989 and not a single person on the planet looked cool.  Instead of focusing on their sunglasses, check out that shot of the band playing the deliciously simple chord progression that starts 44 seconds in.  They’re just blatantly flaunting their songs’ simplicity.)

This attitude of defiant simplicity is all over the band’s work.  Jason Pierce’s count-in at the beginning of “2:35,” off of Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To, is a telling rallying cry.  “One,” he says, in a disembodied, reverb-drenched voice.  That’s all they fucking need.  “One.”  They revel in it.

If aggressively simple riffs ad nauseam was all Spacemen 3 did, their schtick would be a pretty good one, but there’s more:

Sweet, disembodied bliss!  Sonic Boom’s ultra-hushed, heavily reverbed vocals wafting through a Velvets-on-codeine guitar figure, with that tremendous, meandering bass line anchoring the whole thing.  This is the same repetitive, minimalist ethos, but through an introspective, contemplative lens, as opposed to the precise aggression of “Revolution.”

Note the lyrics, too: Spacemen 3 did love singing about (and doing) drugs, just not the ones you typically associate with Pink Floyd.  Instead of traditional psychedelics, heroin through a needle was their choice.  There’s another Velvets association there, which actually points toward a really fruitful path if you’re looking for antecedents to the Spacemen 3 sound.  It’s a fitting one: Like their eventual followers, the Velvet Underground took defiantly anti-psychedelic musical constituents and somehow at something with remarkable affinities with and associations to psych.

(For the record, the studio version of this song, a richly hi-fi, horn-drenched cut off of 1987’s The Perfect Prescription, mercilessly blows this YouTube clip out of the goddamned water, but I gotta make do with what I’m given.)

Pierce and Boom released a handful of fantastic albums, notably the aforementioned The Perfect Prescription and 1989’s Playing With Fire, before imploding with predictably druggy messiness.  Both emerged in their own concerns which took their original band’s aesthetic and bent it to serve new and (mostly) enjoyable ends, but nothing they’ve done alone—even Pierce’s best Spiritualized work—comes close to the bare-bones brilliance of Spacemen 3’s best stuff.

I guess that’s a matter of some debate.  People do love their Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, and I have to count myself among them.  Either way, they’re perhaps the quintessential Play One Note band, embodying Mark Hollis’s maxim better than anyone else.


You know the drill: Spacemen 3 album reviews to follow.  I’ll definitely write about those two classics, and maybe I’ll get in on that Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To, which is such an apt title I almost don’t even want to point out how fucking apt it is.  Also, more Pram.  Be well.

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A Leap

June 10, 2010

(Forgive the banal title.  I just don’t know how to properly name what I’m about to relate.  Warning: It’s about an injury I sustained, some “thoughts,” and “myself.”)

I’m listening to Gastr Del Sol’s Camofleur right now.  Since I first heard this album seven years ago, it’s been one I return to frequently, and with unfinished opinions.  There’s something about the bizarrely intricate compositions David Grubbs and Jim O’Rourke crafted on here that resists neat filing.  I can’t ever listen to this album and go, “Okay, got it,” and move on.  This is music designed to be incongruous with expectations.  Like all great 90s post rock, Camofleur invites introspection.

Though it’s not particularly plaintive or insular—in fact, far from it—this invitation to inward thinking fits the mood I’ve been in for the past couple of weeks.  I’m dancing around the subject, so I’ll just come out with it: Just over a week ago, during Memorial Day, I was swept up by a strong current, tossed 15 feet over a dam, and landed on some concrete.  My shoulder caught the brunt of the fall, and I tore my rotator cuff.  I also hit my head, and tore my eardrum.

When I fell, I fell face first, with numb disbelief.  Everything played out with crystal precision.  Absurdly, unbefitting one’s “final thoughts,” I thought that this—this oncoming collision between flesh and stone—is what Greece must look like.  I saw the concrete rush up.  I felt the awful, visceral slap of my airborne body thud against the dam floor below.  I heard the shrill klaxons echoing inside my head, drowning everything else out.  I remember everything.

Hospitals, drugs, and diagnoses followed.  The ER doctors could not then determine the cause of the intense ringing in my left ear, and suggested I contact an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  I can’t tell you why, but I waited.  My hearing did not improve; in fact, it often worsened throughout the day, a muffled hum slowly drowning out voices and sounds until I went to sleep, when it would return to a dulled baseline in time for the next morning.  I stumbled out for a convalescent breakfast with my girlfriend—who I watched fall mere seconds before I did so myself, and who I briefly thought died, and who actually suffered a stable fractured vertebra, but is otherwise fine—and lost track of what she was saying among the restaurant’s soft conversation.  I was asking people to repeat themselves constantly.  I’ll be honest: I lived in a numb, low-level panic.  I thought my hearing was fucked.

Continuing with that honesty, here: I am not a strong person.  I am now—and was then—totally aware that, not only was I lucky to be alive, but that the injuries I sustained were happily minor for such a fall.  I have not spoken to an EMS technician, nurse, doctor, or specialist who has said otherwise.  And yet, I couldn’t help but feel how oddly cruel it was that, of all the nicks I sustained, relatively speaking, that one to my eardrum would be among that short list.

During this time, I actually thought about this blog a great deal.  Writing this thing is more for me than it is for anyone else, because c’mon who feels like reading 700 words about a Charlemagne Palestine album, but (or perhaps because of that) I thought about it anyway.  And I decided, in my numbness, that I could not possibly consider writing about music at all, ever again, if I couldn’t fucking hear it.  Seemed reasonable enough.  Not that I hashed this, any of this, out all too much, but whenever it crossed my mind, that’s kind of what I decided.

Forgive the bitterness of the previous paragraph.  Despite my self-reported lack of strength, I actually did my best to reconcile my little spill with what could be a lifelong impairment.  I forced myself to realize that, although things have always turned out okay for me, being a bright, white American from an upper-middle class background, such insulation did not guarantee me from permanent damage.  It was entirely possible, I thought, with some resignation and some horror, that I would be this way forever.  And yet, through all this, I maintained an element of denial.  I didn’t really want to go to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, because I did not want to be told my head was wrong forever.  I didn’t want to see myself break down.

Amid this realization, wrapped as it was in a refutation of sorts, I saw Bert Jansch and Neil Young on Saturday.  A part of me was absolutely terrified of going, but my irresolution actually made it easier, for once, to pretend the issue couldn’t be exacerbated.  I love Neil Young, but Bert Jansch is an all-time favorite of mine, nearly as influential and just as important, in my eyes, as Bob Dylan or Mr. Young himself, and much more gorgeous to listen to.  His guitar playing was effortlessly beautiful, as he unassumingly unwound gossamer melodies.

And, sitting there with one earplug in, listening to my favorite guitar player play some of my favorite songs of his, I broke down and cried.  And I surprised myself, because, while I would totally expect them to be tears of self-pity, they were actually tears of crisp, pure joy.  Here I was, with my hobbled yet ultimately healthy girlfriend, largely healthy myself, watching an impossibly generous musician work his craft for an appreciative audience.  I was listening to music.  Regardless of whether or not my hearing was going to ever be as good as it was, I was mostly okay with it, because I was alive, and I did not watch someone incredibly dear to me die as I first thought I had done, and I can still hear Bert Jansch fingerpicking.  And I was capable of happiness this way, too.

That following Monday, I made an appointment to get my hearing checked, and was able to get in that afternoon.  The doctor looked at my eardrum and told me the cause of my hearing loss was due to the smallest tear in one that he’d ever seen.  With a couple weeks of keeping it dry (the cause for my daily, progressive hearing loss was due to water getting on my eardrum while I showered), it should heal right up.  So I’m okay anyway.

Writing all this might be overshare to a degree.  I don’t know.  I just figured, hell, it’s music-related, so why not.  If you’ve made it this far, thanks.  If not, thanks.

I’m so happy.

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Play One Note on Twitter!

April 28, 2010

IT IS HAPPENING: I will now be dropping knowledge on the Twittersphere, <140 characters at a time.  On it, I’ll basically do what I do here–write about the music I love.  That’s the goal, anyway.  Hopefully, I’ll do it in an entertaining and illuminating way.  Except updates will be shorter.  And more frequent.  IT’S TWITTER.

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An Intro to Play One Note

March 27, 2010

Well, hello, everyone.  I’m glad you all have joined us here on this, our christening.  Play One Note is a psychedelic music blog that employs the operative term “psychedelic” with an extremely wide brush.

God, that sentence sucked.

I’m Tom.  I’ll let Chris do his introduction if he wants to.  Basically, we’re two dudes in Austin who worship texture, drone, and the occasional thunderous, mind-melting riff, and we’re going to use this space to explain why we’re so into this stuff.  Speaking for myself, I’m a big fan of awe and sincerity, and that’s what I’ll focus on with my writing in here.  What’s more, though I occasionally adopt an irreverent tone, I’m pretty serious about this stuff.  I respect music with a psychedelic bent more than anything else.  I thrive on contemplative ruminations, staggeringly epic crescendos, and druggy hypnosis.  My goal is to try to explain why, by writing about some of my favorite albums, new and old.

There’s a couple things I’m not going to try to do with Play One Note.  One is to try to be a crate-digger.  My attention span is too short, my appreciation for all music too manic, to focus on one specific genre with any sort of authority.  If I tried to pigeonhole myself, I would, in all likelihood, quickly lose interest with the blog.  We don’t want that!

Another thing I’m not particularly interested in doing (or equipped to do) is being a barometer of exclusively contemporary music.  I can’t keep up.  I cherish competent, carefully considered music writing, and I can’t reconcile trying to do that while constantly trying to ride the wave of what’s on the horizon.  I’m not big into knowing more about what’s coming out than the next guy, and to try to force that on myself for the purposes of Play One Note would, well, kinda suck.

What I will do is write about artists and albums that I consider “psychedelic” and that I truly, simply, love.  And, as you’ll see, my definition of psychedelia is, generally speaking, wider than most.  Maybe, one day, I’ll tackle that concept itself.


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